Poland's nationalist government is risking the country's European Union membership with its judicial reforms, the country's Supreme Court said on Tuesday.
Under the draft law, judges could be removed from their posts for taking part in "activities of a political nature" or acting in a way that could "harm the functioning of the justice system."
The Supreme Court warned that the plans appear to be an attempt to stop judges from questioning the legitimacy of the government's reforms, forcing them to apply the regulations even if they are "incompatible with higher legal norms."
Doing so would be in violation of EU rules, and would "very likely" lead to Poland being punished by the EU for not respecting its treaty commitments, the Supreme Court said in a statement.
Should the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) still refuse to back down and enact the reforms, Poland would then have to leave the bloc, the judges added.
Collision course with Brussels
The statement comes after the European Court of Justice asked Poland's Supreme Court to rule whether parts of the reforms would be free from political influence.
The top court concluded that the independence of a new judicial council and disciplinary chamber could not be guaranteed.
Furthermore, the judges said the proposed bill was "evidently" designed to allow President Andrzej Duda, a PiS ally, to select a new head of the Supreme Court ahead of next May's presidential election.
The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, has already launched rule-of-law investigations against Poland and Hungary over their attempts to bring courts and media under tighter state control.
The probes could lead to a suspension of EU voting rights, although there is currently no mechanism for the EU to expel a member state.
Poland joined the EU in 2004 and despite tensions between PiS and Brussels, public support for EU membership remains high. The country is a major beneficiary of EU funds for infrastructure projects and farmers.
rs/aw (AFP, Reuters)